Friday, April 08, 2016

Persuasion by Jane Austen

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It took me a while but I finished my first Jane Austen novel read! Apparently this was her last novel she wrote. My advice to Jane Austen book newbies, don't start with this one. If you like the movies and were drawn in by the romance between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, you will find that this isn't quite the focus on the novel. Instead it's about society and the way that people behave as influenced by society and others around them. Anne believed and trusted her dear friend Mrs. Russell when she advised against marrying Captain Wentworth. He was of 'low birth' and had not yet made his fortune. Out of fear, she broke off her relationship with him, and for eight years nursed a broken heart. In that time, she has seen what she rejected him for, and it has not made her happy. But when he returns, she realizes that her love for him never died.

I did enjoy the ending very much. It's a good payoff for sticking this book out. I found the writing descriptions a bit tedious and it didn't seem like Anne and Wentworth were hardly together much. Instead, we see Anne watch life pass her by, stuck with her pompous, ungrateful father who has pretty much spent their money so they can't afford to live in their house anymore. Her father and two sisters are obnoxious people, and I got this feeling of Anne living a life of quiet desperation, acceding her needs and wants to the people around her. She has had eight long years to repent her decision. When Wentworth comes back, he seems to have moved on from Anne and actually seems to dislike her (in a polite kind of way). Anne can't hold that against him, since she brought it on herself (by rejecting him) in her mind. But it hurts because he's still the man she loves.

When she meets Mr. Elliot (her cousin), she thinks he's a nice guy and he seems to have a good reputation, and is well-liked. But this is another lesson about appearances being deceiving.

Far be it for me to criticize a great author of her times, but I felt that this book was tedious in its narrative style. Especially Sir Walter (Anne's father)'s long monologues about how superior he is to everyone else, and with his sycophantic daughter Elizabeth eagerly agreeing, not to mention their (and her youngest sister Mary's) endless social climbing efforts, and Anne suffering it all in in silence. The story really gets interesting when Anne meets some of Wentworth's fellow captain friends, and her interactions with them. At the time, I wished that she was actually spending more time with Wentworth, but even as written, this was when I became emotionally connected to the story in a way that I was not before.

I think it's all about expectation. One who has seen the movies expects a straightforward romance, but this is more of a book about society and choices. The persuasion in the title refers to the fact that Anne was persuaded to make a decision that she later bitterly repented. It could also be about how people are persuaded too easily by appearance or what's on the surface or going along with the crowd.

I found Anne to be sympathetic and likeable. Eminently good-hearted, which makes her rejection of Wentworth really just a common and forgivable flaw that any young, inexperienced girl might make. The fact that the years have matured her and she has learned what is important in life makes her more sympathetic. While Wentworth is not friendly to her most of the book (often he ignores her and seems to spurn her), she doesn't hold it against him.

Wentworth's actions don't reveal much of what he's thinking. I think the major weight of his character is revealed through the high level of regard that Anne continues to hold him in, and the respect that his fellow mariners, friends and family have for him. As time progresses, he seems to warm to Anne, and you get the impression he isn't indifferent to her. His letter was wonderful and was definitely a payoff for hanging on and finishing this book. Wentworth is moved by Anne comments to his friend (that he overheard) and it gives him the courage to admit his feelings for her. It is understandable that he is slow to risk being hurt again, in that he was rejected once by her. In the end, the reader cannot be angry at Wentworth either.

This book has no true villains per se, but it shows that society different kinds of people, and there is a morale in that one must be careful what they assume about others, because the surface rarely exposes what's underneath if someone is skilled at playing the game. I think if the ending wasn't satisfying, I would have been much more disappointed in this book.

I couldn't give this more than 3.5 stars because of the plodding pace. Again, it's definitely a matter of expectations. I love the movie with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, so I think my expectations were a bit too high.

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Friday, April 01, 2016

The Vengeful Groom by Sara Wood

The Vengeful Groom (Harlequin Presents, No 1692)The Vengeful Groom by Sara Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good book for melodrama. Gio and Tina's passionate relationship became one of passionate hate due to a terrible accident and misunderstanding that ended with him in prison for vehicular manslaughter. Tina testified against him, and it ruined Gio's life. But Tina thought she was justified. When Gio returns years later, he wants to reclaim his relationship with his mother, who repudiated him, and to get revenge on Tina. He plans to use Tina to do both.

While Tina had good reasons for what she did, I always struggle with characters who were supposedly deeply in love, but are unable to give someone the benefit of the doubt or at least give that person the chance to defend themselves. I think Tina's insecurity over their past relationship (believing he was just using her while dating a more socially acceptable girl in town) factored heavily in her willingness to believe the worst about Gio.

This wasn't a badly written book. I just got tired of the emotional ups and down and the fact that they didn't actually talk things out. Then, all of a sudden, Tina decided she didn't believe Gio was guilty. Why did it take that long? I felt sorry for Gio for how everyone turned their back on him so easily. No one likes to believe that people who love them could do that.

Okay if you want a lot of drama and back and forth in place of talking things out.

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician KingThe Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it wasn't a perfect book, this is a worthy follow-up to The Magicians. There is advancement in Quentin's story, and he's actually growing up and being less of a putz. I did like Quentin more in this book, but he'll never be a favorite hero of mine. Actually, none of the lead characters are especially likable, to be honest. Julia has more of a POV in this book, and I found that I had a violent dislike for her in some aspects of the story, and mild sense of sympathy in the others. Overall, I will never be a big fan of her.

One of my big problems with Julia is that she continued to blame Quentin for her misfortunes and was unwilling to accept any fault for her own choices. Yes, she suffered from depression, but that shouldn't be an excuse to abuse and hate others who don't measure up to overweening sense of superiority. Yes, he should have spoken up for her so she could get another chance at Brakebills, but it was her fault she didn't take her exam seriously. Julia has a sense of mental superiority and a general antipathy for people that I found off-putting. She might be extremely intelligent and had become a top level magician (admittedly making huge sacrifices for that), but she didn't seem to learn how to treat others with respect. Having said that, what she suffered was beyond horrible, even if, in a strange way, it helped her to achieve what she wanted. In the end, it turned out that she gave up everything for something that turned out not to be the path to true happiness. And in a strange way, Quentin turns out to be a true friend to her in a way that she never was to him.

Grossman is a very good writer. His imagery and descriptive flare is incredible. I feel that he suffers in writing characters that are sympathetic. It's all and good to keep a reader reading because of witticisms and clever ideas, along with entrancing imagery, but many people read books because want a hero to root for. Quentin did become more of what I consider a hero, but he has some negative traits that make his armor look dull. Julia has a personality that's more like the Wicked Witch than Dorothy. How about a happy medium?

This series is not for readers who find bad language and who get offended at an acerbic and hypercritical view at traditional values. As with the first book, attitude that anything goes as far as sex and drinking and doing drugs can be hard to swallow. Also that mental superiority of the characters gets pretty old.

Why do I keep reading these books? Because I am in love with contemporary fantasy, and Grossman has a very interesting point of view on that subject. The vantage point of the hedge magicians' world was highly fascinating. Grossman takes the world-building to the next level without the narrow confines of the Brakebills system, and he doesn't limit the setting to good old Fillory, which was nice. His explanation for mythical creatures in the modern, non-magical world was a nice touch.

I wasn't too fond of the direction he took with investigating paganism as a way to achieve a higher level of magical ability and that event that resulted was really hard to read (or in my case listen to). Some readers who have an issue with rape will want to be very careful with this book. I question was that a necessary choice and I wonder why that seemed to be the way to deal tragedy in a heavy dose for one of the characters instead of another type of plot device. I also question the anti-climactic conclusion of this novel as far as Quentin's hero's journey. Having said that, I will pick up the finale in the near future.

As an aside, the SyFy Channel production of The Magicians is very good. It has much of what might appeal to readers, and is pretty faithful to the book overall.

I will keep getting the audiobooks for these because they are really good to listen to. This has a different narrator than the first book, and I think I liked him better. He was less snide-sounding. With these characters, one doesn't need more of a snide, I'm better than everyone tone.

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Batman:The Black Miirror by Scott Snyder (Writer), Jock (Artist), Francesco Francavilla (Artist), Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer), Sal Cipriano (Letterer), David Baron (Colourist)

Batman: The Black MirrorBatman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a bit hesitant about reading a Batman where it's not Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is the one and only Batman to me. Yes, I know that's not true or canon. I just love Bruce Wayne. Having said that, Dick is a good Batman. And this was a very good graphic novel collection. It's very creepy and dark. I like how everything ties together to the climax. At first, the stories seem unrelated, but they all lead down a sinister path.

The villain is someone that is deeply familiar to Dick, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara, and that makes it all the worse. The idea that someone you love could grow up to be a sociopathic/psychopathic killer is deeply disturbing. As if Gotham isn't full of enough darkness and sickness of the soul.

The artwork is suitably grim, and the look of the villain is classic and inspires dichotomy of banality and menace in the reader. I like the use of shadows and shades, along with reds and blues and oranges to illustrate the narrative.

While Dick isn't my true Batman, he'll do in a pinch.

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Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking GlassThrough the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the audiobook version for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (My Review) so much that I was happy to get the Playaway for this. The narrator is the same, and she's great. She is awesome with the varied voices. She made this more enjoyable than it would have been had I read this book.

I enjoyed this slightly less than the first book. I think this had too many poems and songs for my taste. While I enjoy poetry, I'm not a big fan of it taking over a prose narrative. A number of the scenes were quite funny, and I found myself laughing as I listened to this working on my Design project today (I laughed more with the first book though). The interactions between the three queens (including Alice) went a little too long for my tastes, but I did enjoy some of her other adventures, including the soldier who kept falling off his horse.

After the clever storytelling in the first book, this one feels like more of an afterthought. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't found the recitations tedious. I do love Alice though.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

His Bewildering Bride by Merry Farmer

His Bewildering Bride (The Brides of Paradise Ranch - Spicy Version, #3)His Bewildering Bride by Merry Farmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a lovely little romance. I'm glad it came up as a recommendation on my Amazon Kindle bookstore page. I liked the author knew a bit about the history of interracial marriage and wrote a story that showed that more of it occurred than history one would presume before the advent of Jim Crow/Segregation laws. I would have liked to live in a town like this during this point in history (when I normally think that being a black American at this time was a double-edged sword pointed at your throat). I liked that Wendy rose above the prejudice and ill treatment she faced. Born a slave but working to be an independent businesswoman. Although she faced racism, she didn't let it get to her or sour her or make her a hater. She didn't give up and I was glad to see her dreams come true.

Travis was such a sweetie. I loved him. He stepped in when his immature brother wouldn't honor is commitment to marry Wendy when he finds out that his bride is Negro. Travis was man enough to even help Wendy with her sewing so she could win the contest that might get her a shot at her own business.

While the ending ties up things nicely, it's a good ending that made me satisfied with the story. The love scenes are sweet but pretty steamy, and they show that Wendy and Travis had great chemistry, a strong bond, and true love. What a great combination. Probably the only thing I would change is for it to be longer. I will definitely continue this series. I downloaded the first book right after finishing this.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.00 stars.

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Batman: Gates of Gotham by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Kyle Higgins (Goodreads Author), Ryan Parrott, Trevor McCarthy (Illustrator), Dustin Nguyen (Illustrator)

Batman: Gates of GothamBatman: Gates of Gotham by Scott Snyder
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book delves into the history of Gotham and the four families. An interesting one to read around the time that the TV series "Gotham" just finished an arc involving one of the historical Gotham family's feud with the Waynes. In this story, it's not so much a feud with Wayne, but a historical Gotham vendetta that puts modern Gotham and its inhabitants in jeopardy. I think the artwork was very well-done, and it delves into Steampunk territory with some of the design. I would have liked it better if the layout was better arranged. It was a big confusing reading the panels and the story jumps forward and backward in time. I liked that all of Batman's team is working together to save Gotham. I squeed when I saw that Black Bat aka Cassandra Cain is actually in this book. It was good, but not great.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.00 stars.

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Dangerous Obsession by Patricia Wilson

Dangerous Obsession (Harlequin Presents)Dangerous Obsession by Patricia Wilson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I think if I don't write this review sooner, I'll forget all the details. So, yeah, it wasn't my favorite Patricia Wilson. It was good though. It was obvious Dan was in love with Anna. I could see why he was keeping his distance from her when she was younger. It was interesting to see things from Anna's eyes and then to hear about Dan's point of view. When she's older, and when the story begins in the present Dan seems to making a play for her and he's definitely staking his claim when Dan takes her to his island to recover. I was surprised at the reveal with the woman that Dan had been engaged with years ago. I didn't expect that at all. I think that I've loved some books so much by her, that this one pales in comparison. It was entertaining and I had no major issues. Anne was a bit of a wilted flower for my tastes at the time (although I liked that she was a student in higher maths) and the story slows down a bit on the island.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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His for a Price by Caitlin Crews

His for a PriceHis for a Price by Caitlin Crews
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Oh man, I loved the hero in this book. He was scrumptious. He reminded me of Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Devil in Winter in that he's a long, lean panther who talks like a panther purrs. He screams "I'm Bad For You, but I'm So Good!" He was delicious. He definitely goes on my lickable hero shelf. I fell hard for him because he is so super-sexy, and because he gave Hattie steadfast love in a way she'd never had before. At one point, he withdraws from her, and Hattie can't deal with that. He does it because it was difficult for him to deal with the fact that she refused to be honest with him. Hattie doesn't know how to deal with him not being in her life the way he's been for over ten years, and that is the impetus for change. That was when he realized she didn't know how. She didn't know what unconditional love was and the concept of being accepted no matter what. She spends most of the book pushing him away emotionally, and being a bit of a brat, so that tiptoes on the edge of being a bit tedious. Crews managed to change the tone soon enough that I was just burned out on it. I think the reveal for why Hattie has behaved the way she has so long was a pit too rapid in its delivery (and it felt a bit lightweight to be honest), and I would have liked better pacing in that regard. I did love the surprise that Nicodemus gets. I was really surprised myself. I like a good twist in a story.

This book is pretty heavy on internal dialogue and that probably wouldn't work for some. But I felt it was well done, and I think the characters are wonderfully complex. I think this is a nice mix of modern cultural awareness but with the old school intensity dynamic that makes many of us Harlequin Presents readers such advocates of the vintage novels. The sensuality is intrinsic and hot and underlined by the fact that these two people really love each other and can't imagine a life without each other.

I'm hoping that I enjoy His for Revenge, about Hattie's brother, as much as I did this book.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.

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Desert Prince, Blackmailed Bride by Kim Lawrence

Desert Prince, Blackmailed BrideDesert Prince, Blackmailed Bride by Kim Lawrence
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was deeper than I expected. I liked that both leads weren't exactly what they seemed. Gabby is tough and independent if not a bit reckless in her pursuit of justice. Rafiq was thoughtful and not the playboy I expected, not that he was celibate, but he wasn't promiscuous either. I didn't expect the reason why Rafiq was trying to marry Gabby to his brother. I'm glad he eventually realized how inappropriate his intentions really were. There was a dark aspect to this story, but the fact that things get resolved so easily kind of short-circuited the pathos that this story had. I think my favorite part was that Gabby was older and mature and not a young girl easily manipulated by Rafiq. It still wasn't my favorite by this author though.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Out of Control by Shannon McKenna

Out Of Control (McClouds & Friends #3)Out Of Control by Shannon McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this at night before bed stretched out the process, but it was worth it. There's something about Shannon McKenna's way of writing romance. It's utterly sighworthy but extremely earthy. Sometimes I think a sacrifice is made with extra-steamy romance to convey the eroticism, and often the diehard romance is left behind. Not so with McKenna. Davy thinks he's the knight saving the princess, but he's pretty darn messed up. Margot really is an alpha heroine in a good way. When the book takes place, she's in a bad way, but it's clear that she's a very independent, competent woman. Davy spends most of the book confused and delusional about being in love with Margot, which I think would be very hard to deal with. Margot admit she's in love with Davy and he sort of throws it in her face, but at the same time, his behavior towards her suggests that he's deeply emotionally entangled with her. He is the King of Mixed Signals. I wasn't too angry at Margot when she has a crisis of faith in Davy. Based on what she's been through in the previous eight months and a history of not being able to trust men, especially men that she couldn't control the scope of their relationship with. Davy is not a man who can be compartmentalized or controlled. That's for sure. I like Margot a lot and I think she's a good match for Davy. Davy was a bit of a putz at times, but still lovable and lickable.

The villain is one sick puppy, for reals. It was a different twist. This villain being a student of the Death Touch. Being the martial arts geek I am, well I thought that was pretty interesting. His relationship with his brother was a study in dysfunctional family relationships. He was a formidable villain and definitely able to match Davy in his own enviable martial arts abilities. I wish the climax hadn't been so abrupt. I would have liked to see more of a drawn out confrontation between these two and the controlling older brother getting his just deserts in a more descriptive fashion.

It was lovely to see the other McCloud brothers and associates. They are a special bunch. The dialogue is classic. Since I read Fatal Strike before this, it was special to see Miles as the geeky apprentice. He's adorable!

This one isn't a five star book for me. I think it's more like a 4.25 star read. It doesn't have the intensity of some of my other favorites, but it's still a very good book.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor (Goodreads Author), Tom Derenick (Illustrator), Jheremy Raapack (Illustrations), Mike S. Miller (Illustrator), Bruno Redondo (Illustrator)

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series reads like a very realistic nightmare. You know how people you know (including yourself) are doing things that are horribly wrong and there's nothing you can do to stop it? And the only hope you have is that you'll wake up soon? Yeah, that's Superman and those who subscribe to this skewed belief in justice after his terrible loss. It's weird to say you hate Superman, but I kind of do in this book. Batman is seen as the threat and the enemy, but he's like a sane voice in a nightmare of brainwashed insanity. It's not that Superman is all wrong, but he's so wrong it's enough to make your hair stand on end, considering who he and the power he has. Batman is staying very true to character in this book. He won't stop even if it costs him everything. Unfortunately, the cost of those who ally with him is very high. It's interesting to see who sides with Superman and who sides with Batman. You can probably guess without me telling you, except for maybe a couple of people. My heart hurts for what happens in this book. I can't say I regret reading it, but this is really like a Justice League nightmare in technicolor. FYI, this is a prequel to the video game. You don't have to be into video games to get into this.

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Wolverine Goes to Hell by Jason Aaron, Renato Guedes (Illustrator)

Wolverine, Vol. 1: Wolverine Goes to HellWolverine, Vol. 1: Wolverine Goes to Hell by Jason Aaron

This was a trippy one. Wolverine wakes up in Hell, but there's no explanation for how he ended up there, at least not at the beginning. You find out dribs and drabs of information as the story goes along, but plenty of disturbing scenes in the process. I can't decide what was more disturbing: Wolverine in Hell or the fact that he was doing his darnedest to send his friends and loved ones there along with him and not getting why. A little bit confusing of a read to me. And just the subject matter was kind of odd. I'm not used to Wolverine being in a metaphysical context (especially with sorcery and demonic possession as a factor.) It was interesting, that's for sure.

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Veil, Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

Veil, Vol. 1Veil, Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Veil" is an effective horror graphic novel from a proven writer in Greg Rucka. It's about a creature who was summoned from dark magic but seems to retain an innocence and vulnerability that makes predators want to prey on her and protectors want to keep her safe. The artwork is beautiful but also disturbing. The prevalence of sewer rats will creep out those with musophobia. They have a weird psychic connection with Veil that adds a disturbing connotation to the story. The urban setting adds to the atmosphere of fear in that the urban jungle is full of predators of all kinds. Add a secret group who resorts to black magic to achieve desired goals and the creepy factor gets very high. Although a dark story, there is some light in it that makes the ending satisfying for me. I would read further volumes.

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The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham

The Trophy HusbandThe Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this years ago, but I didn't really remember much about it. Downloading the Kindle and doing a reread was a good move. I liked this quite a bit. I miss the books where the heroine is a plain Jane. That trope doesn't seem as popular nowadays. The heroine tends to be exquisitely beautiful now more than anything, at least in my opinion. Sara wasn't really a plain Jane. She just wasn't tall and model Slender and blonde. Alex certainly had a very powerful obsession with her. Everyone could tell he was in love with her, except Sara. I like when the hero is crazy about the heroine, but she's a bit oblivious (but not in a she thinks she's too good for him kind of way). Alex is definitely a Lynne Graham hero but he's not quite as arrogant as some of hers run. He seems a bit more vulnerable. I think there would have been less trouble for them both if he had just been honest with Sara about being in love with her. Instead, he was sending out all these mixed signals and getting mad at her because he thought she was still stuck on her ex-fiance.

Glad I did a reread when I did.

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Taggart's Woman by Carole Mortimer

Taggart's WomanTaggart's Woman by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don't think I was really in the mood for this when I read it. Sometimes I think I'm in the mood for old school HP and maybe I want something more modern and vice versa. Sometimes you want the best of both worlds. Maybe I wanted that when I read it. What I did like was that it's not toe-tipping on some issues and it was surprisingly frank in the fact that Heather's aunt-in-law was cheating on her husband and everyone knew it but the uncle. And his reaction towards the end when there is a huge potential tragedy. Oh, wow!

I felt like Daniel was mean to Heather and you don't understand why. When you find out, it's kind of like, a weird, out of nowhere explanation. Heather's father was pretty awful. People like that shouldn't be parents. He made a choice to be in Heather's mother's life and to be a father to Heather. But he treated her like crap because she wasn't the son he wanted. What kind of man does that? Heather deserved better, and I kind of hate that her marriage had a similar tone of not being able to make her husband happy either, and his unwillingness to tell her what his deal was with her. I'm at a crossroads right now in my rating. I would have rated it highly if I wasn't as dissatisfied with Daniel's meanness towards Heather. Let's face it. A mean hero is par for the course with vintage HPs, but I have to be in the mood for it. I think I'll give this 3.5/5.0 stars. It's good and has quite a bit to offer, but in the end, it wasn't completely satisfying in all ways.

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Island of the Heart by Sara Craven

Island of the HeartIsland of the Heart by Sara Craven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a ho-hum read for me. I didn't like the characters all that much. Flynn is a mean jerk for most of the book. I can deal with a jerk hero who seems to be head over heels for the heroine and that's why he's a jerk. In this case, it was hard to believe he was so crazy in love with Sandie. His excuse for how he was treating her was pretty darn lame. Sandie seems very immature. I really didn't like that one point she seemed like she was considering having an affair with Crispin even though she knew he was married. I just can't stomach adultery and while Sandie is young and inexperienced, I disliked that she was even thinking about getting with Crispin for a hot minute. Other than the characters not being likable, there's really not enough substance to this story for my tastes. While music is always an appealing element to a story, the music didn't add that much to it for my tastes. I am a pretty big fan of Sara Craven, but this one left me underwhelmed. It wasn't terrible, just not anything that stood out in this book for me.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Deserving of His Diamonds? by Melanie Milburne

Deserving of His Diamonds?Deserving of His Diamonds? by Melanie Milburne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very angsty read. Gisele got thrown out by Emilio when a sex tape surfaces. He doesn't believe that she's innocent, and cuts her out out of his life. When it becomes clear that it's Gisele's newly discovered twin sister and Emilio becomes aware of that fact, he decides that he will make amends and get her back. Soon, he realizes that he can't just go back to what things were. Gisele has lost too much in the past to be the same adoring, biddable fiancee he had in the past.

Gisele's heartbreak is tangible. I cried for what she lost. I could understand why she was hard to deal with emotionally by Emilio. He needed to deal with what he'd done and realize it wasn't right and he couldn't expect all that to go away. While Emilio wasn't hateful, what he did was pretty rotten, and I'm glad that was never glossed over. I also appreciate that he had to deal with the consequences of his lack of trust in Gisele and he has to work through a shared heartbreak as well.

Milburne's writing really has evolved and I feel that her later books have a lot of depth, with complex characters. While her heroes can be typical HP arrogant, they aren't hateful about it where you want them to jump off a cliff, like a few of her older male characters I won't mention and some other HP heroes.

I liked this more than Gisele sister's Sienna's book, Enemies at the Altar, but that was also good.

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Married for Amari's Heir by Maisey Yates

Married for Amari's HeirMarried for Amari's Heir by Maisey Yates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I loved this book. Yates has always been a writer that struck me as having a lot of promise. I feel she nailed it far and away with this book. She has a written a romance between a Very Bad Man and a Hero Who Isn't a Good Girl. Oh she's a virgin, but that doesn't make her a good girl. I like that she flipped that around where virginity doesn't equate with innocence. I love when the heroine is a virgin, but I don't think that having a V card makes a woman more worthy. So yay to Ms. Yates for how she wrote this book with Charity showing some traits that make her less likely to qualify as a Disney Princess. Having said that, she's perfectly sympathetic. Her father was a con artist who raised her with his morals, which are very gray. She always knew deep down that something wasn't right about that life. But she didn't have access to another way of life to establish an alternate or better since of right and wrong so she could reject her father when he comes back and gets her help in pulling a con on Amari. When he runs off, he leaves her holding the bag and dealing with a coldly vengeful Amari who doesn't take kindly to anyone stealing what belongs to him. I loved how Yates sensitively depicts Charity's character evolution and identity crisis. It was excellent writing.

Oh my goodness! I loved that it's pretty obvious that Charity is biracial, if not racially mixed. Kudos again. It's nice to see brown skin as an object of beauty in a mainstream romance that isn't slated just for a multicultural audience.

Rocco Amari is a Class A villainous hero. In his own way, his morals are as flawed as Charity. His treatment of her is on par with an Anne Stuart hero. He is fearlessly cutthroat with Charity, but in a way that shows he's not as cold and lacking in feelings towards her as he would like. From the beginning, something about her gets beneath his armor and he can't dismiss her or deal with her in the way he would typically deal with his enemies. The reader gets a bird's eye view of this hero falling like a ton of bricks for his heroine, even though he can't allow himself to accept it. Amari also goes to an evolution. He realizes that Charity is not a possession, but a flesh and blood woman who he has to love in a deeper, selfless way and not like an expensive acquisition. Oh my goodness, some of his dialogue is priceless. Yates shows that she is a modern writer in how these characters express themselves. I've never heard a hero use some of the terms that Rocco does in this line before.

I could probably go on and on about how much I loved this book, but I won't. I like how Yates plays around with tried and true motifs in this line and breathes new life in them. I normally don't like the mistress storyline at all. The relationship between Amari and Charity doesn't feel like a rich man-mistress scenario, and while Amari seems to hold all the power, it's clear that he's equally vulnerable to Charity. I appreciate that very much. I definitely recommend this book to readers who either are Harlequin Presents fans or modern romance fans who like the billionaire hero or even Anne Stuart villain heroes motif.

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Island of the Heart by Sara Craven

Island of the HeartIsland of the Heart by Sara Craven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a ho-hum read for me. I didn't like the characters all that much. Flynn is a mean jerk for most of the book. I can deal with a jerk hero who seems to be head over heels for the heroine and that's why he's a jerk. In this case, it was hard to believe he was so crazy in love with Sandie. His excuse for how he was treating her was pretty darn lame. Sandie seems very immature. I really didn't like that one point she seemed like she was considering having an affair with Crispin even though she knew he was married. I just can't stomach adultery and while Sandie is young and inexperienced, I disliked that she was even thinking about getting with Crispin for a hot minute. Other than the characters not being likable, there's really not enough substance to this story for my tastes. While music is always an appealing element to a story, the music didn't add that much to it for my tastes. I am a pretty big fan of Sara Craven, but this one left me underwhelmed. It wasn't terrible, just not anything that stood out in this book for me.

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Claimed for Makarov's Baby by Sharon Kendrick

Claimed for Makarov's Baby/Christmas at the Castello (The Bond of Billionaires #1)Claimed for Makarov's Baby/Christmas at the Castello by Sharon Kendrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, this is one of the rare HP books where I felt like the hero was really slimy. I am judging, but it's how I felt. I mean, this dude was pretty sleazy the way he was living his life. While playboy heroes are part and parcel of HP books, he takes it to the next level. I'm not a big fan of keeping paternity from a father without a very good reason, but in this case, I supported Erin's decision 100%. The way she sees him the last time before she walks out out of his life, when she comes to tell him about the baby, eww! It was perhaps fair that she did question whether her decision was to some extent based on her feelings of being rejected by Makarov. I felt for her that she fell in love with him. I'm not sure there was much to love about him. At the end of the book, I think he had realized that a wife and a child was the life he wanted, but his treatment of Erin through the book wasn't what I desire/expect/appreciate in a hero. He never earns my respect. It's sad, because I do love my Russian heroes, but this guy doesn't make my list by a long shot. I liked Erin. I wish she didn't become such a walking bag of hormones for him though. I did like the tidbits about Russian culture that add a lot of depth to the story. I had just found out about dachas just prior to reading this book, and it shows up here as well. Three stars is a tough rating, but hero fails my Litmus test, so there you have it.

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Proof of Their Sin by Dani Collins

Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences, #1)Proof of Their Sin by Dani Collins
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I am on the fence about this book because I didn't like the way the hero treats the heroine for most of the book. He's very mean to her and judgmental and dismissive of her. Mostly because he didn't want to be attracted and drawn to her. He hates her for making him feel vulnerable and that she is the one woman he really ever loved that way. He's self-righteous in that he hasn't lived a very moral life, but wants to give the pretense about it without putting in the effort. It's all about how he appears to the world. While I understand his angst in what happened with his ex, when was that ever Lauren's fault? But he seems to want to make her the scapegoat in the situation. He comes off as a largely selfish hero. On the other hand, I did like Lauren quite a bit. I really wish she wasn't in love with Paulo. I wish she could have fallen for a good guy who loved her and respected her equally. It's almost kind of a scenario where the decent girl gets caught between two rakes and ends up falling for one who isn't really that much more moral than the other. At the end of the day, Paulo and Ryan are both sexual predators, using women as part of their competition and for sexual-gratification, with very little sense of personal honor. I really have a hard time with those kinds of heroes, and Paulo doesn't make me feel any better about it. I think one thing that Paolo is complicit in is hard to forgive. He knew that Lauren's husband was unfaithful to her, and he never called him on it, even if he wouldn't admit it to Lauren. Even their moral failing at Lauren's wedding was arguably more his cause than hers, and his expectation at that time was ridiculous.

The more I think about this, the more I can't say I really liked this book as much as I would have liked to. It has lots of intensity and sort of the ongoing, enduring love theme, but I can't really believe in that love from Paolo's perspective. His resolution at the end was a bit too little too late for my taste.

I feel this book deserves more than 3 stars, but not 4. So I'll go with 3.5 stars. For me, a hero who doesn't seem worthy of the heroine is more or less a deal breaker for me.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Stone Angel (The Chosen Ones, #4.5)Stone Angel by Christina Dodd
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I feel kind of bad giving this less than four stars since I normally love this author and this series has really come into its own. However, the writing wasn't up to snuff in my opinion. I think it felt too thin and maybe a little silly at times. That is really harsh of me, but there you have it.

I love British and Irish heroes, but Liam felt a little too much like a caricature instead of a fleshed out hero. Amanda was fine. The idea of the Other who could turn people into living statues, now that was pretty brilliant, and so was Liam's ability. Also the message about love and sacrifice. I also enjoyed revisiting the Chosen Ones, most of whom are happily married. Aleksander is AWOL, and Charisma is worried about him. Pretty soon, I'll read Wilder and find out what happens there. Looking forward to it.

Overall, pretty good short read, but also disappointing in comparison to others by the author. It's not up to the same caliber of writing for Ms. Dodd. I think the short format was a factor.

Overall rating; 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really regret reading this. It was stomach-churningly violent and full of visual imagery I wish I hadn't seen. I definitely had a sick feeling in my stomach with the over the top violence. Not that most of the people who met bad ends weren't bad guys, but I'm not a big fan of that kind of gratuitous violence, which is why I usually avoid Tarantino and Verhoeven movies, not to mention most modern horror movies.

I won't say that Ennis doesn't get The Punisher. He probably does. I just don't like this presentation of him. Pretty much all the issues I had with the movie "Punisher: War Zone" I had with this book.

Thank God they toned down the violence a lot in the later runs of Punisher. Otherwise, I wouldn't be reading any more of these.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Air Bound by Christine Feehan

Air Bound (Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, #3)Air Bound by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread in January 2016.

I am working my way through a reread to get ready for the next books in the series, and I also just plain love the Prakenskii brothers (they're Russian, enough said!) and the Sisters of the Heart, the found family of women who buy a farm together and are united by personal tragedy and their gifts of power over the elements.

I can easily say this is still my favorite so far (out of the first 3 books), although I loved to the third power Water Bound and I really did enjoy Spirit Bound. I think that this has the best action and the romance between Airiana and Maxim is so natural in its progression. Although they seem to start as enemies, the mutual alliance they found becomes a bond of trust and love.

It hit me hard like for the first time how lethal Maxim is. He doesn't play around! Airiana is sweet, but she has the capability to dive into the fray and do what needs to be done. She's feisty too and she definitely tells Maxim what she thinks. They're such a great couple!

The children are integral to the story and adorable, but it's so awful and heartbreaking what they have experienced. The subject matter here is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I'm super jazzed to finally be able to start reading Earth Bound and excited about Fire Bound coming out in April! I've a feeling that Casmir is like Maxim on steroids.

Previous Review
I loved this book!

I am seriously in love with the Prakenskiis, and I have to say that Maxim is my favorite now. He's a mad, bad, dangerous man but he loves so good! I had no clue that this tough, lethal man that we met at the beginning of this book could be such a sweet, gentle, loving guy to Airiana. I think that is Feehan magic, how she creates this guys who are lethal and ruthless, but then they are so deeply in love with their heroines, that I end up sighing as I read the book. Now this won't work for some readers, but I am such a sucker for the mix of action and suspense and romance, and Feehan has delivered both in such a delicious combination in this book.

I will confess that she's autobuy for me and I didn't even read the synopsis. I was there because I knew it was a Prakenskii hero. I didn't read the blurb until I opened the book to read it, and I was like, 'cool.' So I didn't have much preconceived notions, but I was just in it for the ride, and what a fun, wonderful ride it was.

Most of the book takes place away from Airiana's sisters, but I didn't mind that. I think that the situation was crafted very well to the lead characters. While somethings will always be the same about Feehan's books (but those things are why I read her), the situation felt different in an appealing way. Maxim is in no way a carbon copy of his brothers. And Airiana is also distinctive from her 'sisters'. Despite her air element, she's actually quite cerebral and far from flighty and hippie-chick, like I was suspecting. I liked the backstory of her life and how it ties into Maxim's story. Airiana is a tough young woman. For such a small, delicate person, she can hold her own and she was quite the action heroine in this book. She's really a very cool, down to earth, mature for her age woman. She gets my seal of approval.

I feel that Feehan does a good job of plotting and tying her stories together. and this fits very cohesively into the series. She makes the idea of the 'Sisters of the Heart' all ending up with Prakenskiis a lot more plausible than one would expect. I'll admit that I am fine with it because I can't get enough of these guys.

I liked that the love scenes come later in the book. Considering how dangerous Airiana and Maxim's situation was, it made a lot more sense. I can't stand when they take an inappropriate 'sex break' in romantic suspense novels. When the the love scenes come, they are blisteringly sexy but also very romantic. Although both are wounded, the 'getting busy' part isn't implausible. the love scenes say so much about the love journey of these two characters. You can see how much Maxim cherishes Airiana and you can also see that Airiana truly trusts Max and gives her heart unreservedly. That makes me sigh happily.

There is a really cool twist in this book that I really liked, and it adds to the believability of Maxim settling into a normal life, which he never had because of his family and their tie to the Russian government. There was some horrible tragedy and wrongness in this book, but I think that Max and Airiana were in exactly the right place at the right time and they will make things right.

I really can't say enough good things about this book. I wanted to read it again right after I finished it. Lately, I've felt less sucked into books, and this book certainly breaks that trend for the better. I rejuvenates my romance novel juices and makes me want to go on a reading tear. I have a need for more high octane romance novel action books like this, with a yummy hero and heroine I really like for this long, hot summer I am facing! Please write the next book soon, Ms. Feehan!

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Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore

Resenting the Hero (Hero, #1)Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This lovely book was on my to be read pile for a long time. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. The idea is very unique and quite intriguing. However, it took me a little while to get into the book. Once I made it about forty pages in, I was settled into a groove and enjoying the ride.

Dunleavy is not happy about her bonded work partner. He's probably the second to last one she would have picked, and her last choice has a reputation for being a psychopath. Lord Shintaro Karish is just too showy and she wants a more low key partner. But the forces that bring a pair of partners together make the choice, not her. Although Dunleavy spends too much time trying to convince herself that she doesn't like Taro, the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that there is a good man beneath his facade.

The magic system, if you will, is pretty distinctive. I won't go into the backstory of why the Sources and Shields are able to work together to stop natural disasters, but it's different.

One thing that threw me was most of what they do is internal, so this isn't what I'd call an action-packed book. This would be a hard book to make a movie out of for that reason. The pace does pick up nicely as it goes along, and the climax is desirably dramatic.

"Resenting the Hero" is a good start to a series that I am quite sure I will enjoy reading. I did find Taro delicious, but I could see why Dunleavy was trying so hard to resist him even on a friendship level with him. Especially when everyone is in love with and admires Taro.

Dunleavy is the 1st person narrator, and she makes things feel very comfortable for the reader, even though at times, she is a bit of an unreliable narrator, because her vantage point isn't exactly clear on some things.

There's a clever little mystery in this book, with some nice red herrings. It's definitely a book worth checking out, so long as you don't mind it being a slow starter. That's why I took .75 points off.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.00 stars.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Dave Justus (Writer), Shawn McManus (Artist), Stephen Sadowski (Artist), Travis Moore (Goodreads Author) (Artist), Christopher Mitten (Artist), Eric Nguyen (Artist), Andrew Pepoy (Artist) ,

Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I can freely admit that I was just happy to have more Bigby and Snow, and that's a huge part of my generous rating. But this was genuinely good. It's very dark and noir. There is some bad language and sexual situations, and the killer is really depraved. Convincing as a murder mystery set in Fabletown can be. The examination of class distinctions and the vulnerabilities of certain groups in society is prescient and delivered in a way that is far from preachy.

I liked the flashback to when Bigby first goes 'straight' and ends up on a little village called Salem during a very important time of history. Sturges interjects content from The Crucible, including John Proctor, and gives a plausible look into the situation and someone who might have helped engineer the situation. Ichabod Crane is the temporary acting mayor. A nastier little bureaucrat couldn't be possible. His hands are dirty since way back. Unfortunately, Bigby has to take orders from him. Bigby's only friend and secret love Snow expects him to play nice, when 'nice' isn't really his thing, and certainly not 'politics'.

I love how this series takes popular and lesser-known fairy tales and integrates them into an ongoing story. The sad tale of Donkeyskin takes on an even deeper poignancy in this story when it's related to a missing persons case that Bigby takes a personal interest in. There's even Mister Toad from The Wind in the Willows and so involved in the mystery.

I am Team Snow/Bigby for reals, and so even though this is a prequel and it's not written as a romance, I can see the spark and the chemistry between them from a mile away. But also that they respect each other. Frankly, Snow seems more open and friendly with Bigby than she did in the first Fables episode, Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile.

I'm absolutely thrilled my library had this, and I'm hoping they continue to get it! I should try to get a copy of the video game.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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